Tips for donating your vehicle to charity
Charities & Nonprofits
Checklist before donating
You may see solicitations throughout the state seeking donations of used cars in newspapers, on billboards, and elsewhere. Not all of these solicitations are from worthy charities, and some may not be from charities at all. By taking a few precautions, you can ensure that your vehicle donation will serve a worthy charitable purpose and provide you with a legitimate tax deduction.
Before you donate:
- Check if a charity is registered.
- Confirm the charity is a 501(c)(3) organization.
- Ask how much money will go to charity.
- Ask how donations will be used.
When you are donating:
- Transfer the car's title and remove the license plates.
- Get a receipt from the charity.
Make sure the charity is registered and tax exempt
- Search the Office of the New York State Attorney General's (OAG) Charities Bureau Registry to see if the charity is properly registered and has filed its financial reports with the Attorney General.
- Confirm that the charity is a 501(c)(3) organization — if not, you will not be able to deduct your contribution. Consult IRS Publication 78, which lists 501(c)(3) organizations.
Find out how your contribution will be used
- Find out what the charity will do with your car. Will it be given to a needy individual or sold? Try to find a charity that will actually use your car in its programs or will give it to a needy individual. If the car will be sold, find out exactly how much of the sale price will go to the charity. Be wary of claims such as "all proceeds will go to charity."
- Find out what the charity does with its money. Contact the charity and confirm that your donation will be used for the purposes stated in its advertising. Review the charity's financial reports to see how much of its money is used for charitable programs and how much is used for administrative costs. View financial reports of charities here.
- Make sure that you are actually giving your car to a charity. Some car-donation programs are conducted by for-profit towing companies or used car dealers who claim to pick up cars on behalf of a charity — when there is little or no charitable benefit. Do not donate your car if you cannot confirm that your contribution will go to a charity.
- If you respond to a billboard sign or advertisement, or receive a telephone call asking you to donate a car to a charity, remember that you may be speaking with a paid professional fundraiser and not the charity. Many professional fundraisers receive most of the money they raise. Ask how much the fundraiser is being paid and how much is going to charity. Contact our Charities Bureau at email@example.com to find out if the fundraiser is registered with the Charities Bureau, which requires professional fundraisers to be registered and to file financial reports.
Don't be pressured by emotional ads or offers that are too good to be true
- Don't be pressured by emotional ads or pressure to donate — take your time in identifying a charity that will make good use of your contribution. Any worthy charity will be happy to give you sufficient time to make your decision.
- Be wary of offers that seem too good to be true. Some car-donation programs offer vacation trips and large gift certificates in exchange for the donation of a car. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Is it realistic to expect that you will be given a vacation trip or a $1000 gift certificate in exchange for your clunker? In addition, be aware that if you receive something in exchange for your contribution, you may not be entitled to a tax deduction.
Comply with IRS rules
- Read the IRS pamphlet, A Donor's Guide to Car Donations.
- Make sure you get a receipt for your donation — the charity is required to give you a receipt, which you will need to claim a tax deduction.
- Consult the IRS publication Determining the Value of Donated Property when setting the value of your donated car.
- Complete forms required by the IRS, including Form 8283, which you may have to attach to your tax return, depending on the amount of the deduction you are claiming.
- For more information on federal rules and requirements regarding vehicle donation, contact the IRS directly.
Protect yourself from parking tickets and other liabilities
Make sure to transfer the title of your donated car. Some organizations soliciting cars will ask you not to fill in the line assigning ownership on the car's title papers to make the process simpler for them. But, if you do not transfer the title, you may find yourself liable for parking tickets or being responsible if the car is in an accident.
Keep a copy of the transfer papers for your records.
If you do not have a copy of the title papers, contact the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to find out how to get a replacement. Remember to remove your license plates and surrender them to the DMV or transfer them to another car. Do not leave them on the donated car. Consult the DMV's transfer guidelines for information concerning removal, transfer, and surrender of plates.
Many charities solicit donations of cars. Before donating your car, make sure that the charity is a 501(c)(3) organization and is properly registered with the Office of the New York State Attorney General's Charities Bureau. You should also find out what it will do with the car or the money it receives by selling it. Contact the charity to find out how it spends its money. Review the charity's financial reports to see how much of its money is used for charitable programs and how much is used for administrative costs. View financial reports of charities.
Some charities sell the cars they receive either at auctions or to junk yards as scrap. Others use them for their programs or give them to needy people. Before donating your car, ask how your car will be used. If it will be sold, ask how much the charity will receive.
Yes. Make sure that you fill out the assignment of ownership line on the car's title papers to make sure that ownership of the car is transferred. If you do not have a copy of the title papers, contact the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to find out how to get a replacement.
Remove your license plates when donating your car. If they remain on the car, you may be responsible for parking tickets and other violations of law. Consult the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles' guidelines for information concerning removal, transfer, and surrender of plates.
Many charities have arrangements with for-profit towing companies that advertise that donated cars will benefit a charity. Often, the towing company pays the charity a fixed amount to the charity, regardless of the value of the car. This amount can be very small. Before donating your car to such companies, find out how much the charity will get from your donation. Better yet, find a charity that will accept your donation directly.